Records that Sound Best on the Right Early Pressing

An Extraordinary Recording of the Carmen Fantasie – This Is Why You Must Do Shootouts

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

 

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This London Whiteback LP has DEMO DISC sound like you will not believe, especially on side two, which earned our coveted A Triple Plus rating. The sound is warm, sweet and transparent; in short, absolutely GORGEOUS. We call it AGAIG — As Good As It Gets!

As this is one of the Greatest Violin Showpiece Albums of All Time, it is certainly a record that belongs in every right-thinking audiophle’s collection. (If you’re on our site and taking the time to read this, that probably means you.) Ruggiero Ricci is superb throughout.

And side one was just a step below the second side in terms of sound quality, with very solid A++ sound. To find two sides of this caliber, on quiet vinyl no less, is no mean feat. You could easily go through ten copies without finding one as consistently good sounding as this one.

A True Demo Disc, Or Was It?

Ricci’s playing of the Bizet-Sarasate Carmen Fantasie is OUT OF THIS WORLD. There is no greater perforrmance on record in my opinion, and few works that have as much Audiophile Appeal.

Which is why I’ve had a copy of this record in my own collection for about fifteen years marked “My Demo Disc”. But this copy KILLED it. How could that be?

It just goes to show: No matter how good a particular copy of a record may sound to you, when you clean and play enough of them you will almost always find one that’s better, and often surprisingly better. Shootouts are the only way to find these kinds of records. Nothing else works. If you’re not doing shootouts (or buying the winners of shootouts from us) you simply don’t have top quality copies in your collection, except in the rare instances where you just got lucky. In the world of records luck can only take you so far. The rest of the journey requires effort. (more…)

Traffic / Mr. Fantasy – 25th Anniversary British Pressing

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This Minty looking Island 25th Anniversary British Import LP has SURPRISINGLY GOOD SOUND! I’d have to say it’s the best sounding record from this series I’ve ever heard. (Note that this is the British version and not the Italian one.)

I can’t vouch for other copies of this record — they may not sound as good as this one — but this one has the bass that’s missing from some of the Pink Label copies and is overall tonally Right On The Money (ROTM), with almost none of the transistory grain that you find on domestic pressings. If you don’t want to spend the big bucks for a Hot Stamper, this is probably the next best way to go.

The Lovin’ Spoonful – John Sebastian Songbook, Vol. 1

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  • With STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides, the sound quality of the tracks on this compilation is impressive
  • Both sides are rich, full-bodied, Tubey Magical, and natural with a solid bottom end – no sign of radio EQ to be found
  • Features most of the band’s best songs, including Do You Believe In Magic, You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice, Six O’clock and Nashville Cats (a personal fave)
  • The Allmusic critic is not too crazy about this album, but the User Rating is 4 1/2 stars, which we think is about right

Great sound for some the biggest hits of The Lovin’ Spoonful, a band I wouldn’t have expected to hear sound good on vinyl if I lived to be a hundred, and yet, here it is. This is one of the rare cases where, in our experience, the hits compilation sounds BETTER than the original records. Why? Who knows? We don’t pretend to have all the answers. What we do have (that no one else has, if that’s not too obvious) are the records that back up the claims we make for them.

How they came to be that way is anyone’s guess. All we know for sure is that, judging by the best copies of this album, somebody got hold of some awfully good tapes and somebody mastered them with uncanny skill to what sounds to these ears like near perfection.

Actually, the mastering engineer for this compilation and the Best of from the same year is a person well known to us record collecting audiophiles — the person that ends up with this record can look in the dead wax for his info and the rest of you are welcome to guess — so it’s really no surprise that this compilation sounds as good as the Best of that we rave about. (more…)

Leonard Cohen – Recent Songs

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  • Insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides AND fairly quiet vinyl – the best copy to ever hit the site bar none
  • Unbeatable richness and freedom from artificiality in the midrange allowed this one to tower over the rest of the field
  • “… a return to Cohen’s acoustic folk music after the Phil Spector experimentation of Death of a Ladies’ Man, but now with many jazz and Oriental influences.”
  • 4 stars: “The first thing Leonard Cohen’s music fans noticed about his sixth new studio album, given the typically open-ended title Recent Songs, was that, musically, it marked a return to the gypsy folk sound of his early records…”

NOTE: A mark makes light ticks for 22 revolutions at the beginning of side two. The price of this copy has been reduced more than $200 from that of the last copy with similar grades.

Sometimes the copy with the best sound is not the copy with the quietest vinyl. The best sounding copy is always going to win the shootout, the condition of its vinyl not withstanding. If you can tolerate the problems on this pressing you are in for some amazing Leonard Cohen music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.

This 1979 album marks Cohen’s return to the simple folk arrangements of his early albums. As you might expect, the key elements here are going to be the man’s vocals, the acoustic guitars and Cohen’s trademark female backup singers, Jennifer Warnes among them.

We love Cohen’s albums here at Better Records. No, they’re not audiophile spectaculars, but much like the best Dylan recordings, when they work the sound fits the music perfectly. The vocals are right up front and fairly dry, throwing the words and phrasing into high relief.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that richer, fuller, more solid, more Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate solid, palpable, real people (principally Leonard Cohen and Jennifer Warnes in this case) performing live in your listening room. The best copies had an uncanny way of doing just that. (more…)

Thelonious Monk – Straight, No Chaser

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  • This early 360 Stereo Columbia pressing boasts stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two – relatively quiet vinyl too
  • If you want to hear just how good Monk’s big, rich piano sounds, this copy can show you like nothing by Monk you’ve heard
  • Four Stars in Allmusic, with Teo Macero producing and top Columbia engineering to ensure audiophile standard sonics
  • “Thelonious Monk’s Straight, No Chaser is the pinnacle of his recordings for Columbia Records…” — TheAudioBeat.com

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Gerry Mulligan – Jeru

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  • This 360 stereo pressing put every other copy we played to shame with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • Tubier, more transparent, more dynamic, with that “jumpin’ out of the speakers’ quality that only The Real Thing (an old record) ever has
  • Hard to imagine any reissue, vintage or otherwise, can beat the sound of this LP – we sure couldn’t find one
  • “Jeru flawlessly swings with a relaxed, throbbing, positive life force… The recorded sound, achieved by an unidentified engineer at Nola Penthouse Studio in New York City, has remarkable presence and three-dimensionality.”

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Heart – Dreamboat Annie

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  • One of the best sounding copies of this quintessential Heart album to ever hit the site – Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on BOTH sides
  • Punchy and present, open and transparent, with real weight and power to the low end, nothing else in our shootout could compare to this bad boy
  • There is so much more LIFE to this recording than I ever thought possible, and only the best pressings let that energy come through
  • A Better Records Top 100 album, 4 1/2 stars on Allmusic: “Aggressive yet melodic rockers like ‘Sing Child,’ ‘White Lightning & Wine,’ and the rock radio staples ‘Magic Man’ and ‘Crazy on You’ led to the tag ‘the female Led Zeppelin.'”

Not many records have this kind of big, rockin’ sound, that’s for sure! Punchy and present, open and transparent, with real weight and power to the low end. If you’re an audiophile who loves classic rock, you just haven’t lived until you’ve heard side one of this album on a Hot Stamper pressing.

We’re pretty fond of these ladies here at Better Records. Their second album, Little Queen, has been a favorite test disc around here for years. When Heart is at their best, the music is wonderful. If you’re lucky enough to own the right pressing, this band can ROCK with the best of them.

What A Hot Copy Gets You

For one thing, the music just JUMPS out of the speakers. There is so much more LIFE to this recording than I ever thought possible, and only the best pressings let that energy come through. In a nutshell, those are the ones that earn the name Hot Stamper. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Presence

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  • With two Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, we guarantee you’ve never heard anything like the massive amounts of Zeppelin Rock and Roll energy that are on this copy
  • Here is a pressing with the power, the dynamic contrasts, the low end whomp, as well as the in-the-room midrange presence (pun only slightly intended) you’ve been waiting for
  • Featuring a stripped down, harder rock sound, Presence really benefits from the killer bottom end found on this early LP
  • “Presence has more majestic epics than its predecessor, opening with the surging, ten-minute Achilles Last Stand and closing with the meandering, nearly ten-minute Tea for One.”

We just finished a massive shootout for this album and were reminded just how HARD this album rocks. Achilles Last Stand, For Your Life and Nobody’s Fault But Mine are KILLER on a Hot Stamper pressing like this one. (more…)

The Doors – Morrison Hotel

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  • A wonderful early pressing of this hard-rockin’ Doors album, with incredible Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • Rich, big and full-bodied, with clarity and energy to spare, this is the way you want to hear the Doors’ Bluesy Rock
  • Roadhouse Blues, Waiting For The Sun and Maggie McGill are KILLER on this pressing – all you Doors fans are gonna flip
  • Circus Magazine praised it as “possibly the best album yet from the Doors” and “Good hard, evil rock, and one of the best albums released this decade.”

Too many pressings aren’t rich and full-bodied enough to reproduce Jim Morrison’s rich baritone. He’s The Lizard King, not The Frog Prince for crying out loud. When he doesn’t sound big, powerful, and borderline scary, what’s the point? Not to worry. On these two sides, he sounds AMAZING. Just listen to him screaming his head off on Roadhouse Blues and projecting the power of his rich baritone on Blue Sunday. Nobody did it any better. By the way, the sound of the organ on that track is crazy good. (more…)

Leonard Cohen – Songs Of Love And Hate

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or better on this copy of Cohen’s third studio album – decent vinyl for this title too
  • With sound that is both rich and clear, this vintage pressing captures the emotional intensity of Cohen’s music truthfully and completely
  • Features some of Leonard’s most famous originals, including “Famous Blue Raincoat,” and “Joan of Arc”
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…Songs of Love and Hate captured Cohen in one of his finest hours as a songwriter, and the best selections… rank with the most satisfying work of his career. If Songs of Love and Hate isn’t Cohen’s best album, it comes close enough to be essential to anyone interested in his work.”

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